Keeping Children Safe provides standards and guidance to international development organisations to help them prevent the risk of abuse and exploitation of the children they work with. Any organisation that comes into contact with children has a responsibility to keep those children safe and promote their welfare. Keeping Children Safe was formed in 2001 by some of the leading international development agencies in response to incidences of abuse and exploitation of children that were arising as a result of organisations work with vulnerable communities.
Children in all situations including development and relief projects are at risk abuse and neglect by the people they come into contact with whether this be physical, sexual or emotional abuse.
Child abuse and neglect, sometimes also referred to as child maltreatment, is defined in the World Report on Violence and Health as all forms of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment or commercial or other exploitation resulting in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust, or power.’ (WHO, 2002)
In addition the very design of some projects might increase the risk to the child for example an evening workshop could result in danger to the child walking home after dark.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that child abuse in aid and development programs is a global problem but there is very little data to substantiate this. Few UN agencies and NGOs collect detailed information on the abuse of children by their own staff, and even fewer make this information publicly available.
In 2002, a joint report by the UNHCR and Save the Children claimed child abuse was endemic in refugee camps, highlighting allegations against 67 workers and 42 agencies involving 40 victims. 1
In 2004 it was reported that in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) many girls and women traded sex for food and other items with peacekeepers as a survival tactic. 2
Save the Children reported from research in 2008 in Cote D’Ivorie, Sudan and Haiti that nearly 90% of those interviewed recalled incidents of children being sexually exploited by aid workers and peacekeepers. 3
1. Sexual violence & Exploitation: The Experience of refugee Children in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. UNHCR and Save the Children UK - 2002
2. K Holt and S Hughes, ‘Sex and Death in the Heart of Africa.’ Independent, 25 May 2004.
3. Save the Children UK (2008) No One to Turn To: The under-reporting of child sexual exploitation and abuse from aid workers and peacekeeper. Save the Children: UK London
Keeping Children Safe provides support and guidance to an organisation to implement child safeguarding measures. Building on the experiences and knowledge from a wide range of international organisations Keeping Children Safe developed a toolkit with simple policies and procedures which, if put into place, significantly strengthen child protection. Our trainers and consultants support members with expert advice and shared experiences. Our members regularly share experiences and learn from each other in order to ensure their work is as effective as possible.
Protection systems in many countries are often weak, and leave agencies and staff facing complex child protection dilemmas. Although children are very resilient, some children in emergencies are especially vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. There is little common understanding across agencies of child protection issues, standards of practice, or the organisational implications of these.There are huge difficulties in operating child protection policies in the many different legal, social and cultural contexts in which agencies work. Children may be at risk of abuse and exploitation, not only from individuals in the communities where they live, but also from agency staff, volunteers or other representatives.
6. How does an organisation become a member of Keeping Children Safe?
To become a member, organisations need to commit to work to safeguarding the children they come into contact with. Visit the membership page for further information and application form.
7. If my organisation doesn’t focus on children why should it become a member?
For many agencies, children are not their primary focus – for example, their main focus might be water provision, food distribution or involve the wider community. However, when those organisations analyse their activities invariably they do come into contact with children. Children everywhere are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation by people in positions of power and trust so it is essential that all aid and development agencies are able to ensure they have systems to recruit staff appropriately, address poor practice and behaviour and respond to concerns when they arise.
8. If my organisation is already a member of HAP International why should it also join Keeping Children Safe?
HAP International makes a valuable contribution to make humanitarian action accountable to beneficiaries through self-regulation, compliance verification and quality assurance certification. Keeping Children Safe is a member and we work closely together. However children face unique risks and specialist measures are needed to ensure they are protected. Keeping Children Safe has this specialist knowledge and experience.
9. What is the Keeping Children Safe consultancy and training service?
The consultancy and training services offers bespoke training packages to suit every organisations needs, open courses on topical safeguarding issues and personal consultancy to staff within organisations. For further information visit the consultancy page.